President Barack Obama has disappointed drug-reform advocates across the country since taking office as president, and nowhere do they feel more betrayed than in Colorado.
After holding the party convention in Denver and handily carrying this traditionally Republican state in 2008, Obama could be jeopardizing his reelection bid with a dismissive and even hostile approach to marijuana reform, a top issue for tens of thousands of local residents, including many of the activists who powered his last campaign.
Obama inspired hope with early signals on relaxing drug policy, including the October 2009 “Ogden memo” that said the U.S. would not prosecute in states that allow medical marijuana. In the past two years, however, the feds have targeted medical marijuana facilities with a record number of raids, putting Obama on course to surpass the previous high set by George W. Bush. In Colorado alone, 40 dispensaries — all in compliance with state and local law — have already been shut down this year.
The surprising about-face has inspired former supporters in Colorado to try to legalize the drug outright. They managed to get a proposition to that effect on the ballot this November, and while some are (not unreasonably) teasing the possibility that the initiative, Amendment 64, might help the president by bringing a younger, more liberal electorate out to the polls, there are also warning signs that many of these same voters won’t pull the lever for Obama in a crucial swing state.
“The element that nobody’s really talking about is what I call the Gary Johnson effect,” says Denver Democratic political consultant Rick Ridder.
Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico running for president on the Libertarian ticket, has begun holding press conferences from medical marijuana dispensaries and assailing Obama for waging the war on drugs. When combined with the steady drip of news about the latest massive DEA raids on what many local Democrats consider legitimate small-business owners, his presence in Colorado is poised to cause some headaches for the White House as campaign season heats up.
– Read the entire article at Salon.com.